The Weekly Wonk: State, federal policies needed for COVID-19 outbreak response

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

As our nation confronts the COVID-19 pandemic, OK Policy will be analyzing state and federal policies that impact our state and its residents during this national health emergency. These posts reflect the most current information available at publication, and we will update or publish follow-ups as new information emerges. OK Policy’s pieces on these issues are being collected at

This Week from OK Policy

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Weekly What’s That

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is the nation’s largest public food assistance program. Its primary purpose is to increase the food purchasing power of eligible low-income households in order to improve their nutrition and alleviate hunger.

To be eligible for SNAP, a household must have gross monthly income (income before any of the program’s deductions are applied) at or below 130 percent of the poverty line and net income (income after deductions are applied) at or below the poverty line.

In Oklahoma, 378,417 households and 804,641 total persons received SNAP benefits at some point in FY 2019. On average, 574,213 people received an average daily benefit of $4. The great majority of SNAP recipients are low-income families with dependent children, seniors, and persons with disabilities.

SNAP is paid for by the federal government and administered jointly by the US Department of Agriculture and state human services agencies (Oklahoma Department of Human Services).

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“Hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said the secret to his success was to ‘skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.’ Likewise, Oklahoma’s leaders need to base such serious decisions not on the numbers and situation in which we find ourselves today (which we already know are inaccurate due to a lack of testing), but on where we could be in the coming weeks or, more appropriately, where we want to be in that time frame.”

-A letter from Oklahoma medical professionals urging Gov. Stitt to take stronger action to contain the COVID-19 virus [via Non Doc]

Editorial of the Week

EDITORIAL: Turn to scientists, medical experts for information

If there’s one bit of advice those seeking information should heed, it’s this: Don’t turn to social media for answers. And if you can’t help yourself, at least don’t pass it on to others as gullible as you are.

Newspapers won’t print information they haven’t verified, so that’s a good place to start. The next place to head would be to websites manned by competent medical and health care professionals, along with legitimate scientists. Even if they don’t have all the answers, they know more about viruses than the rest of us. That’s important to remember, even though some of the highest-level national leaders are casting aspersions upon them…

Don’t be part of the problem. Don’t pass lies. That’s never a good idea, but now, it could cost lives.

[Editorial Board / Tahlequah Daily Press]

Numbers of the Day

  • 140,700 – Approximate number of grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches for students distributed in one week by Oklahoma’s two largest school public districts — Oklahoma City and Tulsa.
  • $1.534 billion – The amount in federal funding Oklahoma will receive from the new federal stimulus to aid our responses to the COVID-19 health and economic crisis. But more will be needed to offset the skyrocketing cost and harm to our communities.
  • 54% – Percentage of Oklahoma City’s general-fund revenue from sales-tax receipts, which this fiscal year was projected to be about $254 million. Sales taxes are among the largest sources of government revenue in the state, and officials statewide are anticipating how loss of sales tax revenue will impact their communities.
  • 18,000 – The record number of unemployment claims filed during the week ending March 21. The prior week, approximately 9,000 unemployment claims were filed.
  • 2 – The number of states (Arizona and Iowa) seeking to temporarily ease their Medicaid waiver requirements and make it easier for residents to get and keep coverage under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • 9.3 – The number of days’ worth of protective equipment that Oklahoma hospitals have on hand (as of Sunday evening)

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Restaurants and hotels are putting workers on ‘zero hour schedules.’ Here’s how you can get unemployment benefits even if you’re not officially laid off. [Business Insider]
  • Voters support a response to the Coronavirus that meets the scale of the crisis. [Data for Progress]
  • Why coronavirus is a food security crisis, too. [City Lab]
  • As layoffs skyrocket, the holes in America’s safety net are becoming apparent. [Washington Post]
  • GOP-led states diverge on easing Medicaid access during COVID-19. [Modern Healthcare]
  • How can Medicaid enhance state capacity to respond to COVID-19? [Kaiser Family Foundation]



David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

One thought on “The Weekly Wonk: State, federal policies needed for COVID-19 outbreak response

  1. The covid 19 reactive boost to unemployment payouts was intended to assist with the added expenses from the pandemic, however…the added assistance CANCELLED out snap benefits…Soo there was actually no benefit from the boost! Is this being addressed?? Curious.

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